E-cigarettes, also called vape pens or e-hookahs, are made to resemble cigarettes. They are battery-operated, which allows conversion of liquid nicotine into a vapor which enters the lungs and is easily absorbed into the blood stream. There’s no tobacco, flame, smoke, tar or carbon monoxide which is probably the only good thing that can be said for this product.
I’d like to touch upon some of the questions and concerns regarding electronic cigarettes.
Are e-cigarettes safer than regular cigarettes?
They are probably safer than cigarettes because of the lack of the above mentioned substances found in burning regular cigarettes. That being said, e-cigarettes are a nicotine delivery system, are highly addictive and ultimately harmful because of the effects of nicotine, which is a potent stimulant drug that is probably unsafe for children, pregnant women and people with certain heart conditions. These products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and many are manufactured in China, a country not known for its quality control and safe products.
Can e-cigarettes help break the habit of smoking regular cigarettes?
There is no good scientific evidence that smoking e-cigarettes can effectively wean one off of regular cigarettes. In fact, one large study of 75,000 teen smokers found that those who were trying to quit smoking were less likely to succeed if they also smoked e-cigs and many actually ended up smoking more real cigarettes. Better ways of breaking the smoking habit would be to utilize the strategies of behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement products and prescription non-nicotine medication.
Are kids smoking e-cigarettes?
Since some 90 percent of long term smokers began smoking under the age of 18, it’s not hard to imagine the allure of e-cigarettes to our youth. The CDC has reported a disturbing trend that the use of e-cigarettes more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012. To make them more appealing to minors, manufacturers are making e-cigarettes in assorted eye catching colors and candy flavors like watermelon, cotton candy, and bubble gum.
So with no proven health benefits and with too many questions concerning safety and long term addiction, e-cigarettes should come with at least the same restrictions, warnings and health concerns as with regular tobacco cigarettes.
The bottom line is that for the sake of one’s health, I would strongly discourage the use of any and all tobacco and nicotine products.
- Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.